As home styling continues to drive millennials’ purchasing decisions online and in-store, connecting to house proud consumers is more important than ever.
It is for this reason that the 2022 consumer continues to look at ways to express their style through hardware channels, which is why Allegion believes it is so important to connect with consumers on a deeper level this year.
Allegion Marketing Director – Australian and New Zealand, Craig Patterson says this deeper connection is not only accessed via social media, but in-store where the brand needs to show it is changing with the times as well.
“We have taken some inspiration from other industry leaders and looked at how brands are connecting not only with builders, but the homeowner and the end-user as well and really making the brand accessible in this way. When it comes to products that are on-trend, we are seeing a lot of brass finishes and the rustic look remaining popular, while sustainability is continuing to be a very relevant topic amongst most industries as well,” he said.
This year consumers continue to show they are supportive of businesses that invest in sustainability.
“While it is not always the most cost-effective or easy option navigating the sustainability route, it is certainly the right thing to do. We are committed to this as a company and the entire team is supportive of being more sustainable whether this is through our packaging, the shrink-wrap we use, or consolidating freight to use less fuel. We are looking across the business to do what we can to be a better global citizen.”
“Allegion is focused on packaging sustainability with all of its new products currently, and while it is more expensive – as we look at alternate technologies with packaging, we are really excited by what will happen over the next few years as this project progresses. We will also use this as an opportunity to understand the customer experience and provide an improved Omnichannel experience where our customers can connect with the product online and offline as well,” Mr Patterson said.
Reflecting on the past two years, Allegion cleverly used this tumultuous time to look inside the company to investigate areas for improvement and milestones to be celebrated.
Although supply issues and price rises continue, Mr Patterson says everyone in the industry is in the same boat, and Allegion will come out of this time as a better company.
“When you go through a challenging time it might seem like all doom and gloom but really it is an opportunity to see how you can change processes and become more efficient. This is when you come out the other side and see that you have made some really positive changes,” he said.
“It was just before the pandemic that Allegion acquired the Gainsborough business so we used this time to look at our supply chain to see how we could be more efficient and source better strategic partners. We also looked at the Gainsborough branding because it has not been assessed since the early 2000s. The market has changed since then with a new wave of millennial consumers coming through who want the Instagram-able home because people think the home reflects themselves. Even K-Mart is now influencing this generation as a style leader and making styling the home really affordable,” Mr Patterson said.
As millennials continue to drive sustainability and styling within the industry, Mr Patterson points out that when it comes to the ongoing debate of whether a consumer will purchase a traditional or digital lock, he says this was not a generational decision anymore.
“We have almost gone past this being an age dependent decision. DIY home automation has moved to mainstream consumers and we too are moving into this area through the likes of Google, Alexa and Apple HomeKit. This is also why Allegion needs to make sure that its brands speak to a different consumer altogether. For a marketer this is really exciting because it sees door hardware move into IoT, connectivity and automation. Ten years ago we just were not thinking about this but now it really has become a driving force.”
Ensuring connectivity remains user-friendly is vital to Allegion because customers still have some fear around using new technology, and finding new products too complicated.
“As a brand and manufacturer, we really need to make the purchasing process as simple as possible. We are living in an age where we have got access to so much information about our consumers so there really is no justification to say that we did not understand how the consumer interacts with a lock in a certain way. Not long-ago new product development simply consisted of a builder wanting X widget in orange. We took that as the voice of the customer and rushed down some false leads.”
“Allegion will continue to look at the smart home and security space and we are really proud of what we have achieved so far. Last year we received a breakthrough IoT Award, and also two Australian Good Design Awards in the last few years. We are always investigating how we can make our products more user-friendly, durable and secure,” he said.
Educating the customer on user-friendly digital products is easier than ever, according to Mr Patterson who says this can be done by simply utilising YouTube, Allegion’s website and social media.
“The problem with online marketing is that every other brand globally has this online accessibility and it is almost like an information overload. This is why we have to make sure we give people relevant information and translate all of the information to the consumer in an easy-to-understand presentation. It also needs to be accessible so people can find it and know how to install a lock by watching a 90 second video, which can be used as back-up over paper instructions,” he said.
“Allegion also invested in an Australian training department in 2020 and we now have an incredibly knowledgeable training manager who assists the sales team and customer support team. We did this because we know that when our merchants have the right information, they can support their customers with confidence.”
“This is particularly important when we see people retiring from the industry and new generations come in and get excited about the door hardware, particularly the innovations around finishes and styles and compliance. There is a lot to know and we want to make sure we are giving people the right tools,” Mr Patterson said.
When looking at sales within the safety and security segment during and post-COVID, Mr Patterson said it was a blessing that the hardware industry boomed throughout this time, “along with many government investments really putting a firecracker in the industry.”
“Obviously supply constraints have emerged due to the huge demand on residential and commercial construction and cost increases are coming from our suppliers as well. We try to absorb as much of the increased costs as we can through efficiencies and engineering.”
Mr Patterson said that while the blowout of build times is also making it very challenging for tradies to source supply, it is so good to see construction activity continuing.
“The industry definitely has got a lot of fuel left in it which is great news for us and anyone who can maintain supply in the industry throughout 2022 and beyond, and we are in a very healthy position when it comes to inventory,” he said.
Safe and reliable security remains a priority
Privacy remains a top priority for safety and security consumers this year, particularly as digital locks become more advanced and online security risks increase.
ASSA ABLOY’s Senior Product Manager, Eric Sindel, says it is for this reason that consumers continue to look for highly secure, reliable products from well-established brands within the current market.
“While security risks within digital products are a reality, these risks can be easily combatted with the addition of new privacy and security features, including cloud storage and encrypted networks. These are just some of the features ASSA ABLOY uses to manage home security data to avoid hacking and data leaks,” he said.
When it comes to comparing the popularity of traditional locks in comparison to digital locks, Mr Sindel believes traditional locks will always be a market requirement. However, as consumer awareness on digital and connected products for the home continues to grow, ASSA ABLOY is seeing an increased interest for user-friendly digital products that provide the same security as a mechanical offering.
“The growing acceptance of digital locks amongst Australian and New Zealand consumers is not specific to any one generation and appears to be driven mostly by the greater proliferation of smartphones. As consumers become more comfortable using these devices in their everyday lives, the benefits become more apparent and consumers find an increasing openness to the adoption of smart or digital-driven solutions,” he said.
“Oftentimes the decision on a mechanical versus digital lock solution is driven by the user’s interest and awareness in the benefits of the digital offer. That is not to say price is not important, but I think when you look at people seeking to upgrade their locks, they expect to pay a little bit more for the added benefits of a digital solution.”
“Consumers need to remember that they always have the ability to test and evaluate these products in-store which is a massive benefit for them, especially for those customers who are making their first inroads into this space. Having well-trained staff and access to a working sample goes a long way to helping those new to the digital lock space, better understand the benefits of digital locks,” Mr Sindel said.
For most suppliers within the hardware industry, 2022 is expected to continually be dominated by on-going supply issues, whether this is global component shortages (e.g. semi-conductors) or delays in transport and logistics, Mr Sindel said.
“Both continue to be a major challenge that requires extensive planning and oversight to manage within a business. Two-plus years into the pandemic these issues still present problems however we have adapted our planning methods to ensure we minimise the impact on our customers. It is our hope that later this year we will start to see supply concerns stabilise a bit more, but until then we will continue to proactively manage this so our products are readily available,” Mr Sindel said.
Consumers demand user-friendly keyless entry
Looking to the New Zealand safety and security market, having the right accessibility to consumers via the right products remains top of mind for retailers. Mitre 10 New Zealand’s Category Manager for Hardware, Hamish Graham says user-friendly digital varieties will remain a priority for consumers throughout 2022.
“Consumers respond best to products that are easier to set up, do not require wiring, deliver faster results and deliver more features than ever before,” he said.
Although keyless entry products continue to trend well within the market, Mr Graham said he is yet to see a decline in either the digital or traditional lock sectors.
“The price points are still so different that we do not believe this will be a short to medium-term trend. What we will see sooner is a decline in mechanical digital locks in favour of smart digital locks.”
“When a customer replaces a problematic traditional lock, they tend to replace or repair it with the same product. While price remains a factor for many, aesthetics is also a factor with many customers preferring not to upset the overall look of the house,” he said.
Mr Graham says packaging innovations will continue to lead the safety and security market this year as door hardware suppliers transition to more sustainable packaging. When it comes to trends in the product itself, Mitre 10 New Zealand is seeing increasing sales in sub-categories that boast designer finishes, including graphite and nickel.
“We are seeing increases in these areas but the volumes are small compared to traditional colours for the replacement market. In saying this matt black varieties remain an extremely popular colour segment and are showing no signs of slowing down in sales,” he said.